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My 12 for ’12: Room 237 & The Death of the Author

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #10

Room 237 is a fascinating look at Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. It has been described as “the best DVD extra ever made”, and it definitely succeeds as a lighthearted (but incisive) exploration at one of the best horror films ever produced. While it works on that level, Room 237 works even better as a demonstration of what Roland Barthes termed The Death of the Author, the awkward relationship that exists between a piece of art, its creator and the audience watching it.

On a larger scale, Room 237 is the story of how a film can be appropriated by people, and how sometimes the real cinematic magic unfolds in the gap between the screen and the audience watching it.

theshining7

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Stuck in the Moment: The Mood for a (Particular) Movie…

I’ve been thinking a bit, lately, about how I form an opinion about a particular film. Of course, it should be somewhat objective. I should be able to take out any possibly subjective influences and divorce a movie from any of those countless outside factors, to judge it entirely on its own merits. (Or, as the case might be, its lack of merits.) However, I am honest enough to admit that this isn’t always the case. There are any number of reasons I might feel a particular way about the movie. I find J. Edgar interesting to place in the context of Clint Eastwood’s body of work. I approached Cabin of the Woods with an admitted fondness for cheesy horror. I’ll admit that these facets colour my opinions somewhat – I am more likely to respond to a film that resonates with me on something I feel strongly about.

However, sometimes that influence factor isn’t anything to do with the movie in question at all. Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder, whether my opinion is down to something as arbitrary as the mood I was in when I watched the film.

I will not have my tastes subjected to this sort of double-guessing!

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Kubrick, The Shining & Eating My Cinematic Greens…

I always feel a slight pang of guilt whenever I find myself discussing the work of Stanley Kubrick. Don’t get me wrong – I have a massive amount of respect for the director. I think he’s one of the very finest cinematic minds of his generation, a very shrewd and sophisticated cinematic intelligence who carefully constructed a series of masterpieces that exemplify some of the finest aspects of the medium. However, I always feel a slight hint of shame when asked to name my favourite Stanley Kubrick film. I’ll try to deflect, but if the matter is pressed I’ll answer honestly: The Shining is the Stanley Kubrick film that I love the most.

It feels like a bit of a cheat, a bit of an evasion. As much as people like The Shining – and people do adore the film – I feel a pang of guilt that I immediately go to the most populist film on Kubrick’s filmography. The Shining is saturated with meaning and depth, as is all of Kubrick’s work, but it seems like the most shallow or the least profound work in the Kubrick canon. And yet I love it more than Kubrick’s more philosophical, bolder, more challenging pieces of work.

I feel vaguely like I’m skimping on my cinematic greens.

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Non-Review Review: Room 237

Room 237 is an ode to cinema. Not just Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, mind you, despite the fact that fact that Kubrick’s horror film is the focus of the film’s talking heads (or disembodied voices) discussion. No, Room 237 is a celebratory tribute to every discussion and dissection of popular film, no matter how plausible or implausible, no matter whether conducted in print, on-line or in the pub with friends. Director Rodney Ascher’s documentary is as interested in the personal lives of its subjects – where they came from, with regards to the film – as it is with their views on the film itself.

In case you can’t tell, I was very taken with it.

Cut it there, Jack!

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Modern Movie Meloncholia: Why “Nostalgia” Can Be a Dirty Word…

Do you know what I hate? I hate it when people ask, completely seriously, “why don’t they make movies like [insert classic here]?” anymore, or whenever anybody goes on about the “mindless franchise trash”that Hollywood pumps into cinemas year-in and year-out. It tends to happen quite frequently, when you hear movie commentators or viewers discuss the latest crop of empty and disappointing summer blockbusters, with the default position seeming to be an attack on modern Hollywood as an institution, bemoaning the decline of movie-making standards and an unchallenged assertion that old movies are – undeniably – better. I’m not arguing that Hollywood can’t do better, but I find this fixation on things past to be quite disconcerting – and, I’d suggest, rather depressing. Why are we more focused on what Hollywood was rather than what it could be?

Frankly my dear, I think it's a depressing outlook...

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Noir the Battle to the Strong: Why I’m Afraid of Classic Cinema…

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir.

I have to admit, the “For The Love of Film Noir” blogathon is a very worthy cause. Bloggers from all around the world continuously blogging in order to raise funds to restore classic films. It’s something that I just couldn’t ignore the chance to be a part of – to have the chance to say that I helped restore a classic film print of an actual honest-to-goodness classic film. It was too great an opportunity to ignore… and yet I almost did. I hesitated as I wrote the comment agreeing to take part. My fingers felt heavy. My thoughts caught in wherever it is that thoughts catch. I wanted to blog about film noir for a week straight, but I was also genuinely terrified by the idea. After all, what do I know about classic film?

Too hot to handle?

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When Average Just Isn’t Good Enough: Do Better Directors Have Further to Fall?

I watched Cop Out at the weekend, and I have to admit it was just about okay. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t consistently funny. It had moments of wit, but they were separated by pointless and boring scenes. It had a talented cast, but didn’t do anything with them. I wouldn’t describe it as a bad film, but I wouldn’t advise you to rent it (or otherwise seek it out). However, there was a stronger and more bitter taste in the air. There was something especially disappointing about the film, because of its director. Cop Out was a Kevin Smith film, and it actually felt a bit worse than it arguably should have because I knew the director was capable of so much more. Am I the only one who tends to be more disappointed by an average film from a talented filmmaker than perhaps even a bad film from an untalented director?

Feels like a bit of a cop out...

 

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Non-Review Review: Dr. Strangelove (Or: How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

What I’m about to say is grounds for excommunication from the church of film geekdom, but I am not a huge Stanley Kubrick fan. I admire and appreciate his work from a technical level and there are a few of his films I would credit as genuine classics – and yet there are others that I am markedly indifferent to. Cinematic purists will balk when I suggest The Shining – that most commercially Hollywood production – is my favourite of Kubrick’s film. Dr. Strangelove (Or: How I Learnt to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) is widely regarded as a classic of Cold War cinema, but I must concede that I can’t help but feel a little disconnected from it. Of course quite a large portion of the film (particularly the broader comedy) is still hilarious, but the film refers to a world that I never really knew – I was born in the twilight of the Soviet Union, disconnected from this heated level of nuclear paranoia.    

There's nothing strange about the love for this film...

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Non-Review Review: Minority Report

I don’t love Minority Report. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a well-made film – perfectly entertaining and cleverly directed by a director who is one of the best living today – but it just doesn’t feel consistent for me. The whole doesn’t necessarily add up to the sum of its parts, as it were.

They should probably screen their officers better...

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Is The Shining About Native Americans?

You know how interested I am in quirky interpretations of the deeper meanings of popular culture – like the discussion over whether Anton Chigurh of No Country For Old Men is actually an angel or whether this year’s Torchwood: Children of Earth miniseries was actually about the recession. So it should come as no surprise that when I read about how The Shining by Stanley Kubrick is supposedly about the genocide of the Native Americans, I was more than a little intrigued.

Even the baking powder is in on it…

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